Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year!



Happy New Year to all my blog readers. Hope it is filled with peace, prosperity, health and happiness. Lots of books to read, the time to read them and a fulfilled life is what we all hope for. The Chinese calender says it is the year of the black snake and predicts:

"This 2013 year of Snake is meant for steady progress and attention to detail. Focus and discipline will be necessary for you to achieve what you set out to create."

I do hope I have the focus and discipline needed to be more creative in my writing endeavours and not be distracted by negativity. I wish you all a wonderful year ahead!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Merry Christmas

Wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas. May your holidays be filled with lots of time to read books, peace and happiness!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Next Big Thing part 2












Zoe Strachan's blog gives us a real insight into her novel Ever Fallen In Love.  Get the lowdown on it by reading her blog : http://writerzoestrachan.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/next-big-thing/. She is also writing a new novel with the working title The Hotel. 

One more young author has accepted the tagging for this exciting venture of The Next Big Thing.  Sweta from NYC will be regaling 
us with her wonderful poetry and her new novel that was launched at the South Asian Literary Festival 2012. 


 I love this blog chain idea as you get to know how the writer works. There is also the fun bit when they cast actors for the film version of their book. Read and enjoy! 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Next Big Thing


I've been tagged in The Next Big Thing by fellow writer Carol McKay (Website: www.carolmckay.co.uk Blog:http://carolmckay.blogspot.com). Carol's short story 'Flags' won the inaugural Booktown Writers' Short Story Competition, and she has published several e-books in 2012 through The PotHole Press.
I'm instructed by Carol to tell you all about my next (or current) book by answering these questions and then I tag five other authors about their Next Big Thing. So here I go!

What is the working title of your latest book?
It is called ‘Bombay Baby.' A tale set in Glasgow and Bombay.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It was a photo in the Times newspaper of a little girl Freya, sitting between her two white parents and the question came to me ‘How would that girl feel about her origins when she is a teen?'
What genre does your book fall under?
I would say general fiction / literary fiction, a novel about a contemporary issue that society faces.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
The main protagonist Tina would have to be a young Freida Pinto with a Glasgow accent. In fact my friend’s daughter, Annika Rose,  who played a police constable in Taggart and was the first Black Juliet in RSC’S Romeo and Juliet would be perfect. James would be Gerrard Butler of course! Sanjeev Bhaskar would be good as Mr. Joshi The highlight of the film would be exotic Mumbai and  douce Bearsden in Glasgow.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
She is a brown baby born to white parents from an embryo transplant. After her eighteenth birthday Tina sets out on a quest to find her real identity.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It has been published by small indie press Dahlia Publishing Limited.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Two years from inception to writing it. I had the idea when I was writing novel one, the story would not go away and I had to write it.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There are some books about surrogacy and the impact of it on the couple’s lives, like Jodi Picoult’s  ‘Sing You Home’ ‘Origins of Love’ by Kishwar Desai, but  my novel looks at it from the child’s point of view. What are the consequences of interracial upbringing and how do some people cope with such a heritage. The Scottish and Indian angle is unique too.    
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I am an avid reader. Every time I go into bookshops I fail to find any book that relates to the lives of Indians in Scotland. James Kelman bringing out the voice of the working class Glaswegians and making them heard through books is my greatest influence. I want that to happen to multi-cultural literature in Scotland. We need to tell our stories and participate and contribute to the culture of this country.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
There are amazing connections between Scotland and India and few people are aware of it. The Bombay Scottish school, and many others which would pique the reader’s interest for sure.
Here are some fine authors I've tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing! …..
 Zoe Strachan-  http://zoestrachan.com/aboutzoe.html
 Bashabi Fraser- http://www.bashabifraser.blogspot.co.uk

Peter Cooper - http://petercooperstellingtales.com/2012/11/13/inspector-bucket-takes-the-train-2/

I am still waiting for two other authors to respond to this tagging.
My thanks to Carol McKay for tagging me.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Amazing offer for Book Week Scotland

My publisher Dahlia Publishing Ltd has come up with an irresistible offer just for Book Week Scotland. 'Bombay Baby' is half price only 6.49 GBP !

Do grab a copy and please do send comments to Amazon or me. The events around Scotland for this Book Week is amazing.

Just look at this range of events and freebies!!Book Week Scotland is Scotland's first national celebration of books and reading, taking place from 26 November to 2 December 2012. The week-long programme of events is bursting with fantastic opportunities for people from all ages, interests and reading abilities, to embark or continue on a reading journey.
Book Week Scotland will encourage the whole nation to embrace reading’s unique capacity for empowerment, enrichment, education, solace, pleasure and growth. It will also provide a platform for everyone in Scotland to celebrate our exceptional literary talent, our history of literary excellence, and our rich creativity. Book Week Scotland also supports writers and publishers in Scotland. Click here for a catalogue showcasing Scotland's books, publishers and writing.
Scottish Book Trust has worked with partners across the country to create a diverse programme of events with some of Scoland’s best loved authors including Iain Banks in Loch Leven, Val McDermid in Orkney, Debi Gliori in Carnoustie, Janice Galloway in Benbecula, Christopher Brookmyre in Greenock, Vivian French in Glenrothes and many more.

 Other highlights will include:
 The programme will also represent Scotland’s diverse communities. Some of the events developed with partners include:
  • Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) Scotland will open its Transcription Centre in Partick, inviting people to learn how to produce a book for someone with sight loss, or create a piece of work in Braille.
  • Shetland Arts is coordinating read-aloud sessions by local primary school pupils in care homes.
  • Scottish Refugee Council and Words per Minute are hosting a Live Literature event celebrating refugee writing.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

A poem



Sorry not a very clear photo of my poem on a post card. For a wee browse on a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Book Bundle offer!



Dare to be different, forget Amazon book offers this Christmas.  

 Go on indulge in this fab offer. For only 24.99 GBP, a book bundle, you get two novels and two anthologies.

Dahlia Publishing Ltd.

Hello and welcome to our first newsletter.

Since launching as a social enterprise in 2010, Dahlia Publishing has published four titles, hosted a handful of writerly events and continues to manage The Asian Writer.

Over the Autumn we conducted the Leicestershire Writers Survey  which found that many writers in the region feel that lots more could be done when it comes to literature events. We'll be implementing some of your suggestions in 2013 so watch this space!

Today we're launching our wonderful Xmas offers across all our titles, which celebrate brand new fiction from regional and diverse voices. There is also our exclusive bundle offer, where you can purchase all 4 titles for just £24.99). A perfect Xmas gift for a book lover. All our special offers are only available via this link.

We hope you will support Leicester's independent press and by doing so, will help us to continue to publish fiction by new writers often overlooked by the mainstream.


Farhana
f.shaikh@dahliapublishing.co.uk

Call for submissions: Submit your manuscript for consideration to submissions@dahliapublishing.co.uk

You're getting this newsletter as a subscriber to The Asian Writer or because you filled in one of our surveys. We won't be sending you another email until March 2013.
Launched this year, The Asian Writer Short Story Prize set out to discover and recognise the very best new writing emerging from Asian writers. Five Degrees presents fourteen short stories short-listed in this year’s competition.
The stories reflects not only the depth and quality of writing being produced by new and emerging voices in Britain today but also go some way to challenge the perpetuated myth that Asian writers only produce a certain kind of fiction.

Read some of the UK's strongest fiction for just £5.
Our first anthology brings together poetry and short stories on the theme of celebration as well as a selection of interviews with Asian writers. It's beautiful collection of contemporary new voices from across the South Asian diaspora.
Interviews with Man Booker Prize nominated Mohsin Hamid, Orange Prize nominated Roopa Farooki and Winner of the Commonwealth Best Book Prize 2010, Rana Dasgupta amongst others capture the experiences of writers from across the South Asian diaspora.
An eclectic mix of poetry and prose by emerging writers explore themes of love and loss, belonging and identity, tradition and ambition.
An advice section for aspiring writers includes a full in depth interview with agent, Lorella Belli and snippets of advice from over twenty published writers.
The mortuaries are full with victims of a brutal child killer and the city is in a state of alarm. The newspapers are rife with rumour. Who is the Beast and where will he strike next?
Young Will Jakesbere travels to London hoping to report on the illustrious career of Inspector Bucket of the Detective. But it is not long before he finds himself caught up in the chase for the sinister Beast.
Meanwhile, across town, a father is in a frantic search of his own – to locate his missing son. How will these two fates collide and will Bucket ever catch his man?
Inspired by Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, Inspector Bucket and the Beast is a new murder mystery featuring the enigmatic Inspector Bucket.

BUY NOW for just £10
Tina is torn between her Scottish parents and her Indian roots.  In the months leading to her eighteenth birthday she decides to find that missing piece of her life. Tina embarks on a journey, that will change her life forever, to India to find the woman she might otherwise have called mum. She meets an alluring American, Andrew and falls in love. But is all what it seems?
Meanwhile her uncle James is back in India on a business trip –  the place where he found himself and his first love. Just when Tina is about to discover her biological mother’s identity she is involved in a tragic accident and it is James who is summoned to her hospital bedside. As James begins to reminisce over his past he wonders how his life might have otherwise turned out. What happens when their lives accidentally intertwine and what will the consequences be for their loved ones waiting in Glasgow?

BUY NOW for just £10

Place your order today at http://dahliapublishing.co.uk/order/








Sunday, 11 November 2012

November

November is the tail end of the year and yet so many things are happening. Nanowrimo - a scary 50,000 words or a novel in a month has now become a mandatory prod for some procrastinating writers like me. But, and there is always a but, so many festivities to lighten the gloom of the short days of winter distracts me from writing, well that's my excuse! Guy Fawkes Night, Diwali, Thanks Giving  and Christmas shopping makes this a bright and happy time.

The photo is of the restaurant November(apt, don't you think?) in Princes Square in Buchanan Street. Prince's Square is a lovely little cluster of shops that is worth a look during the Christmas season. No bookshops in there, but are there many around? Amazon has enticed the book buying public by their online offers that are hard to resist.

 I have just finished reading the quaintly titled 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen'. It is  political satire at its best. Yes, it is an old book and it took me four years after getting a copy to read it. A kind friend has given me a copy of 'Swimming Home' by Deborah Levy and as it is only 160 pages long and has been shortlisted in the Man Booker prize and loved by my friend, I'll be reading that next.

The South Asian Festival in London was celebrated in style. My publisher launched an anthology of new Asian Writing 'Five Degrees'. I hope to read the short stories in it soon and find some superb new Asian writers. Do check out my 'Bombay Baby' Page on Facebook to read about this anthology launch. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bombay-Baby/291536527525945?ref=hl

Some Radio ramblings- arachnid is not the same as spiders, the Upanishads, an 8 year old who lived opposite Hitler's flat in Munich, John Humpreys of Today programme going for the jugular of BBC CEO Entwhistle, the Archers, music while browsing FB- these are the joys of listening to the radio, something that gives me as much pleasure as reading and writing.

Remember  a copy of  my own novels, 'Bombay Baby' or 'Twice Born' would be a great Christmas or Diwali present.

Now for an offer you can't refuse. If you are a Prime account holder with Amazon , you can get the Kindle edition of my book 'Bombay Baby' ABSOLUTELY FREE. HERE'S THE LINK. HAPPY DOWLOADING:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00865NEHM/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-5&pf

Friday, 19 October 2012

Summer's away!

Did all fairy tales begin in India? This is the fascinating discussion event at the South Asian Lit Festival, 1st November to the 11 th in LondonHere is the blurb from the event that takes place on Saturday 3rd: 

Fairytales: From Panchatantra to the Brothers Grimm:  In the bicentenary year of the first publication of the Grimm Brothers’ folk stories, our panel explores the extent to which the Grimms were inspired by the ancient Indian animal fables found in the Panchatantra. The Arabian Nights, too, have tangible roots across the subcontinent, from Sanskrit animal fables to Buddhist short stories.

In this unique event we bring together experts in all three traditions to discuss these tantalising questions and revel in the timeless magic of storytelling.
Panchatantra ' is an ancient collection of animal fables written in Sanskrit around 3rd century BC.  The South Asian Lit Festival has a wonderful line up of authors and events for all ages. If I was living in London I would attend as many events as possible.


I have finished reading Aminatta Forna's The Memory of Love, an absolutely fantastic read. I learnt about the civil war in Sierra Leone written in such a subtle, awe inspiring prose. I look forward to reading more of her work. She is on twitter and when I tweeted to her she responded immediately, adding that she was born in Glasgow. It is a small world, right?

What am I reading next? Barbara Kingsolver's 'Lacuna' was my choice, but having heard that Anuradha Roy has won the Crossword Prize I am going to re read her book 'The Folded Earth' that I had purchased and read in great hurry during my stay in Jaipur in January. I want to revisit the book and take it at a more leisurely pace.

I hope you are  all prepared for autumn and the cold season. Summer is definitely away and  I'll  be writing some short stories. I'll also enjoy Navratri, Halloween, Guy's Fawkes fireworks and Diwali in November. 


Thursday, 4 October 2012

World Lit

I am reading 'The Bastard of Istanbul' by Eli Shafak now. World Lit is so much more satisfying at times. I am transported to another culture and style of writing is refreshing. I also have the Scottish born Aminatta Forna's book 'The Memory of Love' and I'm looking forward to learning about Sierra Leone. The same old drug, alcohol- laced scenes of local lit gets a bit repetitive.

The Man Booker Prize is only a fortnight away. I have not read any of the short-listed books. Alison Moore's 'The Lighthouse' I think, will be the winner. The theme does not appeal to me, neither does Wil Self's Umbrella which is reviewed as a meandering, stream of consciousness novel. Jeet Thayil's tale of Mumbai again deals with drugs but I may read that one as it is written by a compatriot.

October/ November is the start of Indian Festivals, and I look forward to the celebrations to enliven the dark autumn nights.

It was good this morning to be complimented by someone in the gym, to whom I was introduced to. She had read my books and loved them both. It is always good to get feedback from readers. My second novel 'Bombay Baby' is available on Kindle and as a paperback.

Link to Bombay Baby: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bombay-Baby-ebook/dp/B00865NEHM/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_t_4

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Reading More















Here are some of the books that I've been reading during the last few weeks. Lalwani's 'The Village' was about open prisons in India, a thoroughly modern concept that I was surprised to find has existed in India since the 1960's. The book however had more details on the process of a film crew from the BBC in action in India. An unusual subject and written well.


I dipped into '1984' an old, yellowed, dog-eared copy and found the book still a wonderful read but the old eyes found it a strain.

On my birthday I got a Kindle Touch. I was hesitant to use this new piece of technology. I must say it is wonderful. I am still to download books that I would really like to read. The TBR  pile in physical books is still high. I downloaded a few free books of friends from FB and read it. The actual experience of reading on Kindle is superb. I will download more books and create another big TBR pile on the Kindle.

For a change I read the 'Kashmir Shawl' by Rosie Thomas. A long saga of the Raj it was well researched and an easy read. I am now with Stephen Kelman's 'Pigeon English' and learning about a young Ghanaian boy witnessing a murder in the East End of London. The book has Damilola's trust website on the back pages and is a portrayal of the trials and tribulations of young black kids growing up in this deprived area of the capital city. A sober read I'm sure.

The fifth Milngavie Festival was a success. The Glasgow Lit scene is as bright as always, with a new Crime Festival in Stirling. The Federation of Writers had an 'Open Learning' event. Now the GWL's 21 st Birthday celebrations begin with an exhibition and three reading events at the CCA from the 22 nd of September to  13 th  of October.  I was invited to participate in this event and was commissioned to write a short story. I'll be reading it on 26th September at 6.30pm. Come along to the CCA if you are free that evening.

A cousin from America pointed out that my grandfather's law journal was mentioned in Vikram Seth's 'Suitable Boy'. I must read it again and feel my whole being puff up with pride.

Life is good.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Free Download of 'Twice Born'

An offer you can't refuse. Till 15th September my debut novel 'Twice Born' is all yours for zilch. Download for your Kindle or any e-reader and enjoy!!  Here is the code at SMASHWORDS. Go there today and grab yourself  a copy!!!


Promotional price: $0.00
Coupon Code: VF62M
Expires: September 15, 2012


Synopsis
Have you read a book about Glasgow seen through the eyes of first generation Indians? `Twice Born' does just that. The novel follows the life of a young couple from India and their experiences in Glasgow. `Twice Born' peels away the layers and presents the simmering progress of their life in Glasgow. Straddling the two cultures, putting down their roots while not forgetting their liberal family values steeped in an ancient culture is a delicate balance for them. The overarching themes of the novel are the universal aspects of love, identity and betrayal. An interesting aspect of the novel is that it also follows Scotland's fight for Independence as the political events parallels their lives.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


I've been reading these books in the last few weeks. Olympics on the TV then picking up a good book has been a relaxing time. One book that I could not put down was the Man Lit Prize winner 2011, 'Please Look After Mom'.  I would urge everyone to read it. Prize winning books sometimes do not necessarily make a good read. This one excels in every way. A moving book set in South Korea with a seemingly simple theme of a mother going missing and the family fall out that follows is described beautifully in this book. Kyung-Sook Shin has excelled in writing what is culture specific and yet universal. Sentences like 'Mother is kitchen, kitchen is mother' evokes all kinds of emotion in the reader.

Jamil Ahmad's 'Wandering Falcon' is a book worth reading to get a glimpse of the North West  Frontier that borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. The tribal culture and its mores are explained well. A short novella of just 180 pages.

I also read Anjali Joseph's 'Another Country' as I was hoping to see her at the Edbookfest. I was a bit disappointed with her second novel. The protagonist is my name sake, Leela, a young girl in her twenties who goes through a series of unhappy relationships in Paris, London and Bombay. There was a disconnect in the whole book and I felt no empathy or interest in the main character.

I'm now reading the last one 'Dream of Ding Village' set in China, it is  a harrowing tale of Ding Villagers who are persuaded to sell their blood and the dreadful blight of Aids/HIV that is caused by dirty needles. The methods used to get the villagers to part with their blood for money by unscrupulous men  and the consequences of the epidemic is portrayed in detail. The book is banned in China.

August of course is the month for Book Festivals all over the land. The biggest Edinburgh International Book Festival has started already in the fringe, the dates of the festival are 11th- 27th and as always a great line up. I hope to go there at least for a day.

Not long to go for the Milngavie Festival too September 4th-8th if you want to mark it in your diary.
Enjoy what is left of summer.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Books, books and more books








June and July have been monsoon- like months here in Milngavie  and I have spent a good deal of the time reading and writing. Pamuk's Museum of Innocence, which I had bought over a year ago beckoned. The 728 pages was daunting but I thought I would relish reading this writer again. Around page 320 I nearly gave up and confessed to my FB friends. Couple of them made helped me pick the book up again and I'm glad I did. The ending of the book, the last chapters in particular were interesting. I was surprised  that even a Nobel Lit writer could get into  the rather dragging ' middle muddle' in the novel. Pamuk is a wonderful writer but this book moved very slowly and I found some of the chapters repetitive. When I did give up on the book, I moved on to a short novel by Sagarika Ghose on 'Blind Faith' set in Goa and enjoyed reading a well written book with a feisty main protagonist. I also dipped into Jackie Kay's 'Reality, Reality' a collection of short stories that made me laugh out loud at some and some made me pause and think. I have now started 'Letters from the Great Wall' by Jenni Daiches, a debut book by  a Scottish academic and I'm enjoying her 'double narrative' the strand of telling her protagonist's life in Edinburgh and weaving it with dexterity with her travels in China. A kind of pleasant book that helps with my hay fever ridden eyes.

The lit chat has been of course about the Fifty Shades trilogy. Good luck to EL James for writing something that some readers obviously want.  There are always books that have won mass readership. Who are we to belittle the authors who have managed to reach out to them?

Edinburgh Book Festival season is upon us soon, in August.  When I go there,I try to see and hear authors who may not visit Scotland. As always it is a great line up  and I'm sure it will be a resounding success. Festivals of all types are de rigueur now. 

On the writing front, the family memoir is completed, but Book 3 is in the back burner as I am indulging in writing a collection of short stories and a few poems. As a lot of my new writer friends are discovering, self publication seems to be the way to go. Some have reached a good readership publishing their work only on ebook formats and one has found it lucrative and satisfying to go for Create Space, the self publishing wing of Amazon. Book publishing is changing  rapidly, like the music scene, and watching the transitory period is fascinating. It is almost like it is turning full circle as many of the famous writers in the  turn of the century  had self published including Dickens. Here is a short list from Google:

                                              Remembrance of things Past, by Marcel Proust
Ulysses, by James Joyce
The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
The Wealthy Barber, by David Chilton
The Bridges of Madison County
What Color is Your Parachute
In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. (and his student E. B. White)


Happy reading folks and hope the sun does come out soon, even if it causes my hay fever to get worse!





Friday, 22 June 2012

'Leith Castle'- Madras

As I have said many times before there are so many connections between Madras and Scotland. I am going to quote from 'Madras Miscellany' in the Hindu Newspaper which has a wonderful group of people, inspired by Mr. S. Muthiah, dedicated to unravel the history of my birth city of Madras. I hope to glean the Scottish gems from their superb research and put it up on my blog, always with due respect to the source.

I saw the photo with the title 'Leith Castle' in one of their pieces in the newspaper and I was intrigued. It is anything but a castle!

So here is the whole article as it appears in the 'Hindu' dated October 17th 2010: "The San Thomé Redoubt

Fred de Silva, fascinated by my pictures last week, wonders whether I could do the same for the San Thomé Redoubt and also relate its story. I, therefore, turned to Glyn Barlow for another of his sketches and offer a photograph of a later age as well. And, tell the story briefly.

Between 1567 and 1582, Fort San Thomé was built, pushing Mylapore far from shore and establishing a battlements-surrounded Portuguese settlement.

The Dutch and the Mughal satraps between 1675 and 1697 demolished all those protective walls to such a degree that when the British moved in, in 1749, they could not even trace the line of the fortifications.

Deciding that such elaborate defences were no longer necessary, the British in 1751 had military engineer Benjamin Robbins raise a small fort by the shore, that would keep the Adyar under observation at the same time.

This was the Egmore Redoubt, built with walls 15 feet thick and three feet wide, and at a cost of about 6,500 pagodas (about half a million rupees today). With threats to Madras further reducing, the fort was given up and the property sold in 1794 to a Col. John Braithwaite, a hero of the third conquest of Pondicherry. He built himself a garden house here on the ruins of the Redoubt.

Two years later, the Colonel sold the 14-and-a-half-acre property to the up-and-coming merchant prince Thomas Parry who rebuilt the house as Parry's Castle, a name that survived till 1837.

In its grounds he established a tannery in 1805 and developed it into Madras' first industrial venture, a manufactory leather goods for the military, both in India as well as in Britain and the U.S. Parry, however, had moved out of the house and to Nungambakkam a couple of years after the tannery started. The odour had probably got to him!

When Parry died in 1824, Major General James Leith bought Parry's Castle and made it a garden house again. After he died in 1829, the house passed through several hands, but always remained residential property.



Some time after 1837, however, it became known as Leith Castle — and that is what it is still known as. But, now, built up all around, the ‘castle' is barely visible. It's, however, still in private hands, the last I heard.

At that time, a couple of years ago, it was in the family of R.N.P. Arogyaswamy, a well-known member of the Geological Survey of India.

Saturday, 9 June 2012





Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide is a fascinating study set in a little known area off the easternmost coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal, known as the Sundarbans.Tidal floods, attacks by deadly tigers makes life precarious in this place. The three main characters in the novel are Piyali Roy an American of Indian origin, a marine biologist who is searching for a rare endangered river dolphin. She engages an illiterate fisherman Fokir, who takes her on his boat.Her translator is a Delhi business man Kanai Dutt. The novel has myths, political intrigues, and personal stories of conflict, the ravaging tide a perfect backdrop to this amazing tale. What caught my interest however were the strong links between Scotland and India in that area. Station names like Canning, a town named Emilybari after a British woman. The novel also mentions the Hamilton estate and I had to delve to find out more. The fascinating facts and I quote from Wikipedia: "Sir Daniel Mackinnon Hamilton (1860–1939) was a Scottish businessman who made Bengal his second home. He established a zamindari in Gosaba, where he experimented with programmes of rural and social upliftment. He was a visionary and builder of rural reconstruction programmes at a time when the Indian national movement was gaining momentum, and gave importance to rural upliftment and self help.He became the chief of Mackinnon Mackenzie in Calcutta in the early twentieth century. In 1903 he bought land of "... about 9000 acres in Gosaba and had it reclaimed by felling the woods and raising embankment on the riverside". His involvement with Gosaba was motivated by his desire to improve the living conditions of the poverty stricken people of British India. He introduced the cooperative system in Gosaba, and in all of Sunderbans, and thus educated the people to share responsibility. His championing of the cooperative society in the Sunderbans ran parallel with the growth of the cooperative movement in India. "


There are so many connections between Scotland and India that more needs to be done to record them, raise awareness, whether in fiction or non-fiction.

I got in touch with Amitav Ghosh on his blog and commented on the twin histories of Scotland and India. He was kind enough to reply:

Thanks Leela – one day I will post excerpts from the memoir of Sir Daniel Hamilton in Balmacarra that one of his relatives sent me. It is a fascinating document.
all best
Amitav


From one of the readers of own book 'Bombay Baby'I got a wonderfully touching email and I quote :
I've just finished reading "Bombay Baby" early this morning and I
loved it especially the connections between Scotland and India because
I have some of them too. ... I was in India for 4 months over the winter - 3 months doing voluntary work with teenagers in Ladakh then I went to Kashmir where my dad was
during World War 2 when he had malaria for the 9th time. He was in
India for 5 years with the RAF and loved it. I then went to Kolkata
where my Mum was born in 1923 to find the hospital in Howrah and the
baptist church where she was baptised. She was only there till she was
2 years old but her father was there for 30 years working in a Jute
Mill (he was from Forfar- lots of people from Dundee worked in the
Kolkata Jute Mills) His Jute Mill was closed down but I did find my
Mums places. There are so many Scottish street names etc in Kolkata
as you probably know.I love India, the people and the family
connections are important for me.
Are you writing another book? If so when might it be ready?

Please keep me informed and thanks again Leela. Keep up the good
work and best wishes.

Irene Mc Coll


“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you're not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Monday, 28 May 2012

You guys must watch this. A short and sweet video by Dahlia Publishers for 'Bombay Baby'

Leela Soma ‏@Glasgowlee
Bombay Baby by Leela Soma: http://youtu.be/DtiebTV_1nU via @youtube
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Sunday, 27 May 2012

At last the Kindle version of 'Bombay Baby' is available to download on Amazon Kindle. As all of you know I have family spread out over all the continents who are keen to buy the ebook version. I'm not sure how many have the Kindle but hopefully this opens up access to all who have shown a keen interest in wanting to read 'Bombay Baby'. Some of my local friends have become ebook readers so hopefully they can take avail themselves of this opportunity.


“an engaging, upbeat piece of popular fiction.” Scotland on Sunday


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bombay-Baby-ebook/dp/B00865NEHM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338122006&sr=1-1

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Scotsman Review Jan 22 2012



I was in India when this wonderful review of my second novel 'Bombay Baby' appeared in Scotsman on Sunday. I was chuffed of course! Here is a full version, with the photo that appeared on the paper, for any one who did not get a copy that day!



By Suhayl Saadi
Published on Sunday 22 January 2012 03:48

TINA Wilson was an Indian embryo acquired by a Glasgow couple. At adulthood, Tina yearns to find her genetic mother.

She gets a job in medical records in the IVF clinic in Mumbai where her (white Scottish) mother had been inseminated and where Tina becomes romantically involved. Meanwhile, in 1968, Jimmy Campbell follows the Beatles to Rishikesh, falls in love with the lovely Rita (not a meter maid)… and, as the smiling Maharishi might have intoned, “the past is in the future”.

This is an engaging, upbeat piece of popular fiction. With its rubric of globalised commercial IVF, reverse surrogacy, adoption and matters of race, Bombay Baby is as topical as a Baroness Mary Warnock report. It would appeal equally to teenagers and their parents irrespective of social group or geography. Tina loves Mills and Boon, and throughout Bombay Baby plays on the contingencies of romantic love.

The characters are deftly and sympathetically drawn. The narrative centres around “shining”, heterogeneous, polyglot India (and a less shiny Scotland) and there are subtexts of psychological repression, social class and other iniquities. The plot proceeds with fluid grace and with that whiff of Thomas Hardy that marks the best of commercial Hindi cinema.

The first ever novel (at least to my knowledge) to have been published by an Indian Scot, Bombay Baby explores the process of self-actuation and is not yet another tired narrative of culture clash. In places, its timbre is redolent of the sharply crafted books-for-teens of Bali Rai, yet Soma’s fiction also evokes the brave new world of human (trans)formation, albeit rooted in a shared, conflicting Indo-Scottish history.

The story revolves around the profound experience of motherhood and the adaptation of human instinct to contemporary science fiction realities. This book might be said to be emblematic of the now normative dynamic of globalised society and its impact on both family structures and personal interiority.

Tina Wilson gets more than she bargained for – going upstream has implications. Might there be other grown-up embryos, other “Bombay babies”, wandering the streets of the world, searching for the right door on which to knock?

Ironically though, in the face of all this science, ultimately it is to Church and Family that Tina and her saintly beau, Andrew, turn in their hour of need.

One might intone (and one suspects that academic essayists and other reviewers may well do so) that Bombay Baby illustrates that, like its protagonist, the fiction of the South Asian diaspora has come of age, but really, such ring-fencing would be unjust to both the supposed genre and this engaging novel.

A refreshingly luminous book, Bombay Baby promises to do well in paperback and this would be a fitting tribute to the democratising narrative skills of the writer.

• Bombay Baby by Leela Soma, Dahlia Publishing, £12.99

Link: http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/books/book-reviews/book_review_bombay_baby_1_2071469

Monday, 16 April 2012

World Book Night






The biggest book giveaway is on April 23rd. EDLC is holding a really good event with wine, cheese, music and great authors. Meet Louise Welsh and some of the local authors at the William Patrick Library.Come and enjoy a fun event.

The second event is by the Scottish Writer's Centre on 26th April.Debate & Discussion- an interactive event. (Thursday evenings 7-8.30pm in the Clubroom)
April 26th: All the Languages of Scotland & World Book Night Giveaway-Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'


Our fifth great Debate & Discussion event for 2012. ‘All the Languages of Scotland’ discusses all the languages and voices of Scotland. Scotland is more multi-cultural than ever before with peoples from across the world choosing to make this country their home. Are the literary voices of Asian, Afghani, African, Indian, Polish, Irish, Iraqi, European and West Indian, to name but a few and of course, not forgetting Scots and Gaelic; being heard and read, whether it be by book or kindle? Are these writers being considered equally by publishers and booksellers? Do they want to be-do you want to be? Come tell us about your experience. Tell us what the Scottish Writers’ Centre can do to help you. Presenters TBC. Check the SWC Website for updates.

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

BB goes worldwide!






As the photograph shows 'Bombay Baby' is doing rather well. Bryan Owen a fellow poet has taken a copy all the way to Bangladesh to add to the collection at Grameen-Caledonian College of Nursing, Dhaka, Bangladesh. On my trip to India I gave copies to my family and some have reached Canada and USA. There are still relatives waiting in Australia to get a hold of'Bombay Baby'. As a writer it is good to have feedback and comments that are constructive about the novel. To hear from readers whether they are local or in other parts of the world is very satisfying and inspires me to work on Novel number 3. The surprising element has been the number of FB friends who have gone the extra mile to purchase the book. A friend in Belgium has paid £4 in postage to get hold of the book. Some have read 'Twice Born' both in the Kindle version and a physical book and have purchased 'Bombay Baby'based on reading the first novel. My thanks to all of them.

Writing a novel is hard work. It needs good planning and more importantly the willpower and stamina to finish it.The research part is fun but it can take over from the story line and get one distracted from the work at hand. An idea for a story strikes one at any time, it could be a photograph as was the case for BB or a news item, a conversation, a piece of art, something that does not go away, and one feels impelled to write that story. Once the characters takes over, it is amazing how the story flows. I do hope my next offering will be one that enthralls my readers. I like writing about Scotland and India, the connections between the two countries is the unique blend that has become my trade mark.

Spring and Summer sees the start of the Book Festival season in the UK. The number of Lit Festivals is growing every year. I look forward to attending some at least. I also have a project that I have been commissioned to work on, so a busy time ahead.

btw I will be giving away copies of 'The Vanishing Case of Esme Lennox' by Maggie O' Farrell on World Book Night on 23rd April.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Price



There are lots of blogs about book publishing in the doldrums, the death of books and the rise and rise of ebooks. There is no doubt that the industry has been slow to meet these challenges. What is surprising is that while big publishers are able to get their books on Amazon and sell at heavily discounted prices the smaller ones are struggling to do the same. The tight budgets that we are all facing makes it harder to sell books.

What is the realistic price of a paperback novel by a debut novelist? I would say not more than a tenner. The ebook should be even more competitive. I've seen fantastic writers like prize winner Catherine Czerkawska even offering her ebooks free for a limited period online. This is the way to take on the big publishers and make sure newer writers make some headway in this fiercely competitive world. More novels and writers will be able to get their work to more readers in this way. Both books and ebooks should be well produced and priced to suit the pockets of readers in these difficult times.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Rather good



'Aye Write' for me started with the 'Poetry Slam ' at the rather late time of 9.30 - 11 pm,almost my bedtime! I walked into a jam packed theatre to loud music that I was not familiar with(I'm still with the 1960's 70's sounds!) and a very young crowd. I recognised two of the judges but no one else in the audience. Once the programmes started, Robin Cairns the MC made sure it was humourous and enjoyable. Sixteeen poets/writers braved it on to the stage, winners from all parts of Scotland. The standard was superb. The winner Kevin Cadwallender's opening rendition of his 'Dalek's Skincare' in a Dalek's voice won the crowd over. His words and delivery was perfect- it was 'Worth it' as he put it. His second round poem on the existentialist builder was even funnier. I recalled Walt Whitman's 'O Me! O Life!' What a wealth of talented poets we have in Glasgow?

The next few days were with SWC workshop and the Amnesty International's programme of imprisoned prisoner's work. Laura Marney, Sue Reid Sexton, a journalist from Gambia and a novelist read four pieces of work that showed us how we take freedom for granted. An excellent event to raise awareness of the tremendous work done by journalists like Marie Colvin who gave up their lives so that the truth could be accessed by all of us around the world.

Moira Mc Partlin staged a totally different book launch of her debut novel 'The Incomers' with a dramatisation of scenes from the book. I've just started to read the my copy that she kindly signed and it is interesting. The story of a West African woman arriving in a tiny Fife mining village written by a local person is new. The prejudices of the 1960's when the area had never seen a black woman is portrayed in the book. Some of the vocabulary is shocking but she struck a cord with the audience.I do remember my own friends advising me not to write too much about racism in my two novels, perhaps it is easier to accept it from a local writer. I wish Moira well in her new career.

Alex Mc Call Smith was a laugh a minute event. He addressed all the issues of writing about Africa in what I consider sometimes in a patronising way, but he argued that there were enough novels of a dystopian or depressing topic and he relished writing the way he did. He related how the first edition of his Botswana series started as a short story and then the book had a print of just 1500, then another 500, progressed to more when he got the New York rights signed. He celebrated his signing the New York contract by buying a pair of suede mocassins, such simplicity. Later as his success mounted he was driven in a huge limousine around NY and he rang his agent in London to reassure him that it was well deserved. His tales about Bertie and his 'pushy mum' in the Scotland series had us all roaring with laughter.A wonderful writer who is adored by Weegies and Burghers of Morningside!!

I am looking forward to Noo Saro-Wiwa and Professor Tom Devine's event on Saturday. Also the exciting winner of the Short Story Competition will be announced at the SWC 's showcase event at the 'Aye Write'on the same day.

I am sure many of you have been enjoying the other events at the Festival.

My tutor from the 'World Literature' classes invited me to their lunch at the end of this session. So kind of her when I could not attend even one of the classes. It was good to meet up with the friends there. I had thoroughly lovely day with them, first at lunch at Stravaigin then at her beautiful flat in Strathblane. The Falls of Ballgan are a backdrop to her house and the burn runs along the estate. Stunning rural setting.

Ah... life is wonderful. Now I better get that family memoir done and dusted!!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Back Home


























I've returned from a fabulous holiday filled with happy memories of being with family and friends. The warmth of their love and the Indian sun has rejuvenated me and I hope to complete my ‘Family Memoir' quite soon and start working on Novel number three.

Jaipur Literature Festival was the start of my holidays and it is one I would recommend all bookworms to experience. The weather is cool, (need a sweater/jacket in the evening), the sunlight during the day highlights all that is great about the venue, ‘Diggi Palace’ the tents and gardens. Of course this year the hype about ‘Oprah’s visit’ and the controversy over Salman Rushdie’s being forced to cancel his event overshadowed what was a superb festival. The bookshop was busy and I foolishly bought six books which I found difficult to bring back with only 23 kgs of allowed baggage. I got The Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi, The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy and ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari' by Robin Sharma etc. I have to buy that Kindle soon. Don't miss the photograph of the Rajasthani Piper!

One of my friends looked at the photos of my holiday and asked me why there is not any photo of the slums and poverty in India. A valid question but my answer is simple. I think that there is enough of that on TV in the West. India still has enormous number of poor. On the other hand maids, drivers, vegetable vendors, shopkeepers (in tiny shacks not the air-conditioned malls, some twice the size of Braehead) and most urban people have a mobile phone. Their standard of living has risen; there is no doubt about that. India 'Shining' has a long way to go to be on par with the West but it has made great strides in the last decade.

The ashram was a calm and serene place after the hectic cities of Chennai, Jaipur and Bangalore. Free education from primary to University to Post Graduate level for the poorest, the super speciality hospital providing even heart transplants free to the poorest is so impressive, as is the total commitment of volunteers, who donate and serve in any capacity that suits them, with their time and effort.The last two photos are of the hospital and school at the ashram. I am proud of my sister and brother-in-law who have dedicated their lives to serving the needy at the ashram.

The constant question I was asked was about my new book 'Bombay Baby'. There were so many wanting to buy it in India, so the few copies that I had for the family is now doing its rounds in Chennai. My family in USA, Canada, Oz are also desperate to read it.I had no idea that there were so many people looking forward to my second book. I am grateful them for their support and interest.

Now that I am back home it is good to get back to the routine of writing. The ‘Aye Write’ Festival is on and there are so many literary events to look forward to. The weather is better, the sun shines here most days, it is brighter and spring is in the air. What more do I need?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Aye Write- The Lit Fest in Glasgow







Aye Write- Look out for the programme in The Herald on Saturday 21st January.

Glasgow’s annual celebration of reading and writing has over 300 events, including a free children’s programme. As well as the festival's 2012 theme of '100 years of Scottish Literature' (commemorating 100 years of the Mitchell Library), there will be events and debates on comedy writing, religion, politics, women’s writing, the digital revolution, media crises and the best in Scottish and international writing.

Phone: 0141 353 8000
Email: ayewrite@glasgowlife.org.uk
Website: www.ayewrite.com

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Man Asian Literary Prize













I am rooting for Bhattacharya:



Seven novels make Man Asian Literary Prize’s strongest shortlist
An unprecedented seven novels have been shortlisted for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize.

2011 Shortlist

JAMIL AHMAD, Pakistan - The Wandering Falcon (Penguin India/Hamish Hamilton)
JAHNAVI BARUA, India - Rebirth (Penguin India/Penguin Books)
RAHUL BHATTACHARYA, India - The Sly Company of People Who Care (Pan Macmillan/Pan Macmillan India/Picador)
AMITAV GHOSH, India - River of Smoke (John Murray/Penguin India/Hamish Hamilton)
KYUNG-SOOK SHIN, South Korea - Please Look After Mom (Alfred A. Knopf)
YAN LIANKE, China - Dream of Ding Village (Grove Atlantic)
BANANA YOSHIMOTO, Japan - The Lake (Melville House)
Four of the shortlisted novels were originally written in English; the novels from South Korea, China and Japan are all judged in translation.

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